“The power to tax involves the power to destroy.” — Daniel Webster
Lost in the never-ending Russia-gate saga the past few days was one of the most grossly under-reported stories by the mainstream media (which may as well be Obama’s Praetorian Guard). The DOJ has settled with several conservative groups who rightfully claimed they’d been specifically targeted by the IRS for harassment and frivolous yet expensive and time-consuming actions, as well as denial or delay of tax-exempt status due to their political leanings in opposition to the Obama administration.
Court records show that IRS admitted wrong-doing and offered this astounding apology for what in less acerbically political times would be considered by both the Left and the Right to be one of the most sinister and egregious exercises of punitive State power to suppress free speech and deny first amendment rights to U.S. citizens in living memory.
Said the IRS: “The IRS admits that its treatment of Plaintiffs during the tax-exempt determination process, including screening their applications based on their names or policy positions, subjecting those applications to heightened scrutiny and inordinate delays, and demanding some Plaintiffs’ information that TIGTA determined was unnecessary to the agency’s determination of their tax-exempt status, was wrong. For such treatment, the IRS expresses its sincere apology.”
One can only imagine if this was a Republican administration weaponizing the IRS to attack its liberal political opponents. (Recently there was a resolution in the Munk Debates in Canada that read: “Resolved, Donald Trump is threat to American Democracy.” It appears the resolution came one administration too late.)
Liberty can be taken away not just by force of arms, but by the metastasizing scope and power of faceless, agenda-driven bureaucrats doing the bidding of their political bosses against whom the citizenry have no recourse, and no way to elect them out of their positions. The IRS has within its auspices enormous power. It can by the stroke of a pen upend the lives of any American it so pleases, with little oversight, and cost them dearly in money, time, and stress levels. It can, in fact, ruin anyone at any time as it has the power to confiscate your money possessions at gunpoint. To use such an omnipotent government agency to forward one political narrative over another is the very antithesis of the Revolution’s founding ideals. And it says much about the dark cynicism and the previous administration and its belief that it had the power and the right to operate under its own set of rules.
More disconcerting, the fact that IRS Director and chief culprit Lois Lerner, who first plead her innocence before taking the Fifth (which was an act of contempt of Congress) walked away from this scandal with a full pension and $129,000 in bonus money rather than a jail term sets a dangerous precedent that federal accountability is arbitrary.
To wit: for my friends, whatever they need . . . for my enemies, the law.
Consider: Yale law professor Stephen Carter writes: “70 percent of American adults have committed a crime that could lead to imprisonment.” Carter noted that’s in part because “there are 300,000 or more federal regulations that may be enforceable through criminal punishment.” As such, this expansive minefield of legal booby traps we all must navigate sans map or compass every day has placed a powerful weapon in the hands of those who wish to punish those with whom they simply disagree. Lavrentiy Beria comes to mind: “Show me the man and I’ll show you the crime.” The regulatory state is perhaps the most dangerous existential threat to the American system in modern times. The IRS scandal, and the media’s unwillingness to cover it as it took place during their term of their favorite son, is just further proof.